For Gay Pride This Year, I Want Companies To Do More

Acknowledge queer people, monetize those eyes, then move on and go back to business as usual.

By Daavpuke, Posted 02 Jun 2020

Today, June 1, marks the first day of Pride Month, where queer people celebrate and assert their existence to the world. Like every year, most companies will be doing the "rainbow thing." We all know what thing this is; that thing where organizations will change their profile picture for a bit and post yet another picture with some human resources message on it. "We value gay people," the paragraph will say or something or other. Some of those companies might go one step further and maybe sell rainbow-colored merch for a limited time. It's Pride "month" after all. 

Lately, however, there's something that's been bothering me about this cyclical event. Yes, I like the rainbows too and if there's a cool shirt with shiny colors, then I want one of those. We're all consumers in this medium. Yet, for the largest companies, this is also the only action they every seem to take: Acknowledge queer people, monetize those eyes, then move on and go back to business as usual.


Overwatch, Gay, Characters
 

This year, rather than having these institutions hop on the bandwagon and then ignore yearlong cries of xenophobia from the community, I'd like the developers of my favorite games to dig just a little deeper. I'll do the rest of the cleaning up and regularly report people, whenever a player or a vetted streamer feels comfortable enough to drop slurs. Granted, I'm already spoiled to have some representation in both Overwatch and Apex Legends, but if I could be so bold, I'd like some more, please, sir. My problem isn't so much that I'd like half the roster to suddenly come out, but rather that I never feel like representation is there in the first place.

In the case of Overwatch, Tracer and Soldier were eventually pronounced as being queer. This announcement happened after game launch, as seen in complimentary comics starring the heroes. Each character also has at least one voice line where they have a chance of implying a same-sex partner, before the game starts. For Apex, the legend Gibraltar is gay and Bloodhound even gets to represent non-binary people, a rarity still in video games. Yet again, these identities are mostly kept in a mention on some website somewhere, barely ever uttered in the game.

Obviously, it would be odd for characters to go yelling about how gay they are during a match that's all about shooting people in the face. It's not that I want these heroes to just start screaming in key smashes anytime they pop off. Sure, that would be a cool nod as well, but it isn't exactly as conducive to do so. We wouldn't want to upset anyone by being loud. No, my problem lies more with the fact these games barely ever recognize the representation. Like the above states, the majority of their queer assertion is either kept outside the in-game space or bookended so far into the distance that the acknowledgement becomes dismissible. "It's all in the lore," which also means the representation is not actually present, it's just assumed to be there. What I'm saying is: This method is the LaCroix beverage of representation.

This year, for rainbow Christmas, I would like for companies to stop peddling trinkets to me on their merch stores. Instead, I'd like the content team to add more tangible material in their games, where I actually spend the most time with their products. Both Overwatch and Apex have no shortage of vanity skins that are quite outlandish to start with. Even with those fabulous outfits, fans have sort of elected specific skins as the "gay" ones. Instead of having the community fill in the blanks by unanimously agreeing that Lightning is just lesbian Tracer, make one or two skins that are unmistakably queer. No ambiguity or word flowers around the subject; just have a straightforward skin that represents the character and their identity. Add a weapon skin in Apex Legends that highlights representation for other parts of the community, so they're not forced to stick to one person. I'll buy those singular items, with real money, if that specific company feels the need to tie the skin to a fundraiser of sorts. I don't mind. Overwatch had pink Mercy, in favor of breast cancer awareness, and we all bought that one. I just want to feel like a character's queerness isn't pushed to the side, to circumvent possible tensions from the community or investors, but rather that it gets welcomed as a part of the game.

I know I'm asking for a lot here. You'll have to forgive my pushiness. Though, with the amount of custom content the standard Games as a Service (GaaS) product has, maybe adding one gay thing every year or so won't really be as noticeable. You can set it to the rate that Genji gets new skins. You can just sneakily cram that stuff in there, as a treat. If I may be so bold.
 

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed
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Overwatch

50/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Blizzard Entertainment
Developer(s): Blizzard Entertainment
Genres: First Person Shooter
Themes: MOBA
Release Date: 2016-05-24

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